This strong and vibrant group is reflecting on a successful past and looking forward to a bright future in the heart of West Cork, writes Emma Connolly
THE ICA is far more than a group of women sitting around drinking tea and gossiping, which is a stereotype we want to dispel so we can welcome new members on board.
That’s the message from the Drimoleague ICA Guild who will celebrate their 60th anniversary on January 5th with an event to which all are welcome at the West Cork Hotel in Skibbereen.
Of the 12 West Cork guilds, Drimoleague with its 25 members who meet twice monthly in the local hall, is one of the strongest.
Today’s president is Margaret Deane who has been a member for nearly 40 years.
Noreen O’Connell, the current press officer, has been a member for around 37 years and the two friends are convincing when they say the organisation is as relevant and useful today, as it was when it was set up in Ireland back in 1910.
Making lifelong friendships is just one of the obvious benefits of being a member of the ICA, they say.
However it’s far more than that: ‘It gives you a bit of bravery,’ said Noreen who is a chiropodist. ‘You get used to public speaking and participating in different things as you know you’re among friends.’
There are also educational benefits, she points out.
‘When we started out there weren’t so many courses available so that was a big part of it. I’ve done courses in An Grianán (ICA centre in Co Louth) in a whole range of things such as drama, crafts, sequence dancing, digital photography – even car maintenance. And yes I can change a tyre!’ she said.
Locally members recently got to take part in pilates, pitch and putt and jiving courses, proving the diversity of what is on offer. They are also looking forward to their annual trip to the college in Louth next June.
Accolades to their name include a Credit Union Community Award in 2008 and a Drimoleague Feile Beag Club of the Year award.
Their charade group is also through to the county final next March while their quiz team won the West Cork final in October and they enjoy a strong representation at Cork Federation level.
‘It’s a shame that people think this isn’t the place for them as everyone is welcome,’ Noreen added.
Margaret pointed out that while lots of things had changed over their 60 years – their core values remained the same: involvement in the community.
‘Being president has made me challenge myself and do things I wouldn’t normally. It’s been exciting and rewarding,’ she said.
The guild’s first meeting was held on December 2nd 1957. Officers elected included: President, Mrs B Johnson; secretary, Mrs E Forbes and treasurer, Mrs C Dineen.
Their was followed shortly after by a meeting held on January 9th, 1958 in the courthouse hall.
Mary JJ O’Donovan was present at that meeting and is still a member today.
In an example of how things have changed over the years, she was selected to represent Cork County on a six-week course on rural electrification run by the ESB, bringing all the new information back to the guild.
Over the years, and still today, Drimoleague ICA contributes to many local worthy causes and events.
Their bazaar was always a popular event and they continue to organise and host the annual senior citizens’ Christmas party.
They previously helped with the local Feile Beag Festival which is now the Wild Duck Festival and are also involved in Drimoleague’s new singing festival.
Noreen said: ‘We are prepared to muck in at the ground level, wherever we’re needed, and will help anywhere we can, any way we can.’ It’s fitting that their anniversary celebration takes place on January 5th – as people can use it to mark the next day’s Women’s Little Christmas.
Noreen added: ‘We have 20,000 members nationally – and the more members we have the more powerful our voice is. We would love new members and are always open to hear from people.’
• The 60th anniversary event starts at 7.30pm in the West Cork Hotel in Skibbereen, with a three-course meal followed by music and dancing to Teddy Crowley. Tickets cost €30. All are welcome including past and present ICA members, family and friends.